Philadelphia Eagles: 10 Eagles Who Will Surprise in Training Camp
The Philadelphia Eagles have quite a few players who should turn heads in training camp this year.
Teams around the NFL begin camp in the next week or two and this is the time where fans can see which players will make significant impacts throughout the course of the season. Sometimes, those players come out of nowhere and play lights-out in training camp and in preseason games.
The Eagles are no exception. Not all of the players on the following slides are unknowns, but they are all poised to make refreshing splashes during these next few summer weeks.
One of the few big names on this list, no one questions that wide receiver Jeremy Maclin will make significant contributions this year. However, he seems poised to play better than most expect.
With fellow receiver DeSean Jackson signed to a new contract this offseason, many are of the mindset that Jackson will be the No. 1 receiver in the passing game. That may not be the case.
This will be the year that Maclin out-performs Jackson and becomes the team's most reliable option in the passing game. Everything seems to be falling in his favor: he is in peak condition, has drawn rave reviews from coaches and quarterback Michael Vick and will have a full training camp to work with the offense (last year he missed much of camp due to a cancer scare).
Training camp will be a prime opportunity for Maclin to show fans just how valuable he will be to the team this season. Expect him to earn praise from the coaching staff and from the media.
All the stars are aligned for Maclin to have the best season of his career and it would be mildly upsetting if he does not post his first 1,000-yard receiving campaign in 2012.
Considering he played sparingly in college, it is not shocking that most fans do not consider Brown a lock to even make the roster. Those fans will be in for a treat a week or so from now.
Brown was a top recruit coming out of high school and by all accounts has been quick to showcase his talents in team activities. The reviews on Brown since being an Eagle have been overwhelmingly positive and recent reports suggest he is a legitimate threat to unseat Dion Lewis as the No. 2 running back.
Lewis is a solid player, but a recent run-in with the law has put a damper on his outlook. Brown, while carrying his own character issues as well, has only drawn attention from his play. He has the build to be a every-down back should LeSean McCoy miss time and has little wear on his body.
The backup RB battle will be one to keep an eye on, but don't be surprised if Brown secures it by the time Week 1 rolls around.
The apparent backup to quarterback Michael Vick, Mike Kafka has drawn the skepticism of fans who are unsure whether he can step up when Vick gets injured. Whether it is his lack of experience or something else, he just has not earned the confidence of the common fan.
Fortunately, he has all of training camp to gain their respect. Kafka may never be an elite talent, but he has improved his arm strength and accuracy this offseason and will showcase his improvements every chance he gets in training camp.
It also doesn't hurt that he will be entering his third season in the same offense. Head coach Andy Reid knows how to groom a quarterback for his system and by now Kafka has had plenty of time to master the playbook. He will surprise many fans who thought he wouldn't cut it as a backup.
Another big name, every Eagles fan is pinning their 2012 hopes to Ryans. Obviously, he should be an immediate upgrade at middle linebacker, but I think even the most optimistic fan will be surprised by how well he plays.
However, his play is not what will turn heads. What will is the leadership he brings to the defense. Ryans was a vocal leader in Houston and when he left many of his teammates were sad to see him leave.
He is the quarterback of the defense and others will follow him as much through his words as through his actions on the field. A vocal leader has been absent from this team since Brian Dawkins left and Ryans is the right player to fill that void.
Fans should expect to hear his voice commanding the defense plenty once training camp begins.
Damaris Johnson may be the biggest unknown of this group. He also may be the most refreshing surprise.
An undrafted rookie wide receiver, Johnson has a long way to go if he wants to make the team, but a strong training camp should help him earn the final receiving spot. If he does make it, it will likely be because of his return skills.
He is, after all, the NCAA's all time leader in all-purpose and kick-return yardage.
That is not an easy feat to accomplish and the team did well to scoop him up after the draft. If he can translate that production to the pro level in training camp, he has a strong chance of making the team.
As it is, reports have Johnson as the favorite to win return duties. On a team that desperately needs a spark in that area, Johnson will be a welcomed sight in training camp.
I have touted cornerback Curtis Marsh as a potential breakout candidate for quite some time and I am sticking to my guns.
Marsh is behind the likes of Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on the depth chart, so moving into a starting role will be difficult. Despite that, he could still make an impact in the secondary.
Marsh was selected in the third round of the 2011 NFL Draft as a raw talent who needed time to develop and he had all of last season to learn the ropes of the NFL. Now, he will be asked to take a giant step forward and be a primary backup on the outside.
He definitely has the physical skills needed to succeed, but up to this point he has not proved that he has mastered the techniques. Training camp will be a great place for him to showcase how far he has progressed as a cornerback.
Keep an eye on him as training camp progresses.
The Joselio Hanson era in Philadelphia has ended. In his place, Brandon Boykin will emerge.
A fourth-round rookie, Boykin was considered one of the steals of the draft. With an impressive training camp, he should push Hanson out the door and be the Eagles' primary slot cornerback.
He will be an exciting player to watch in camp, as he also will see some snaps in the return game. His primary focus, however, will be on defense. Expect a strong training camp to translate to plenty of snaps early in the season.
Many expect that, at best, O.J. Atogwe will provide the team with a little competition for backup duties at safety. He could be in store for much more.
Even at age 32, Atogwe still has enough skill and mental prowess to be an upgrade over the likes of Kurt Coleman or Jaiquawn Jarrett. Training camp will give him a chance to prove his worth and fans will be pleasantly surprised to see he still has a little gas left in the tank.
By the middle of camp, he should be in direct competition for the starting role. Even if he does not land the job (which he may not), he will at least push Coleman and Jarrett and hopefully inspire those youngsters to play better.
His veteran presence at safety in camp will be a welcomed sight for most fans.
After only two seasons, defensive end Brandon Graham is already drawing the ire of fans and is being labeled a first-round bust. This year in training camp, he has a chance to prove the Eagles smart for drafting him.
Graham has plenty of talent, but injuries have marred his first two seasons in the league. Now fully healthy and a full year recovered from his injury, Graham should push for more playing time.
On a line that is incredibly talented, Graham could very well be the highlight of the group in training camp. He plays with a lot of energy and will not give up on a play until the whistle is blown. That is something Eagles fans love to see in a player.
A strong training camp will translate to more snaps at defensive end and he could even eat into some of Jason Babin's snaps. He is a good bet to turn heads at training camp with his high motor and the giant chip on his shoulder.
No one is expecting Casey Matthews to push for a starting role, but his name is currently penciled in as the immediate backup to DeMeco Ryans at middle linebacker. With an impressive training camp, he could restore the faith that fans have in him.
Working in his favor is the reports that he has bulked up over the offseason and has added more muscle. This is key because it will allow him to shed blocks easier, which is something he struggled with as a rookie last year. It will also allow him to bring down bigger targets.
He has a chance to prove the extra weight was worth it in training camp, and could earn some oohs and ahhs if he makes enough plays on defense. The entire linebacker unit will be exciting to see, but Matthews could be a bright spot if given the chance.